• United States



by Antone Gonsalves

Leaked emails indicate tech companies’ interest in TrapWire

Aug 14, 20123 mins
Critical InfrastructureCybercrimeTechnology Industry

WikiLeaks release of hacked Stratfor emails shows governments, Google interested in using spy tool to foil terrorists

Emails released by WikiLeaks indicate governments and large corporations including Google and may be interested in or are already using a spy tool called TrapWire to prevent terrorist attacks against critical facilities.

Developed by Abraxas, TrapWire is a video-surveillance program built to detect “various discreet, but identifiable indicators of pre-attack preparations,” according to Abraxas documentation made available on the Bitdefender blog.

Information gathered from TrapWire can be shared with law enforcement agencies to assist in counterterrorism efforts, reports the Hot for Security blog.

Details on the possible use of TrapWire were found in emails stolen from Stratfor Global Intelligence, a provider of geopolitical analysis. Hackers broke into Stratfor’s website in December and took millions of emails that WikiLeaks dumped on the web several months later.

The WikiLeaks website, which routinely publishes classified documents obtained from anonymous sources, was inaccessible Monday due to a denial of service attack that started more than a week ago. 

[See Bob Bragdon on cybersecurity legislation (or lack thereof): The many seasons of our discontent]

However, an email posted by WikiLeaks and obtained by ZDNet indicated that TrapWire might already be in use by Scotland Yard, the White House and 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British prime minister; and many multinational corporations. “Our consideration is introducing them to companies like Walmart, Dell and other[s],” said the email from Don Kuykendall, Stratfor president and chief executive.

In another email, Fred Burton, Stratfor vice president for intelligence, said’s San Francisco headquarters was interested in TrapWire. The message also said Google might be a good potential customer because the company had indicated a “growing frustration [and chaos] on their part in light of the Chinese penetrations and intellectual property theft,” ZDNet reported.

A spokesman told CSO Online on Monday that the company “does not comment on rumors.” Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Another email uncovered by ZDNet described TrapWire’s success at helping to uncover “an extremely serious al Qaeda terror plot” that targeted a financial institution, an entertainment center and a government office building in Los Angeles. “The same terrorist surveillance team [i.e. TrapWire’s] conducted pre-operational surveillance of all three sites.”

Members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) allegedly started Abraxas and developed TrapWire. The software system uses video surveillance cameras in watching for patterns that could indicate terrorist activity or some other criminal operation.

U.S. government intelligence officials have been warning for years of the potential for terrorist-led cyberattacks on U.S. defenses or critical infrastructures. Legislation circulating in Congress to address the concerns includes a bill that would establish government regulation for computer security related to critical industries, such as the electric power grid.